Workers at GrowNYC recently announced that their employer will recognize the workers’ union formed with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The victory comes three weeks after a delegation of nearly 200 GrowNYC employees demanded voluntary recognition of their union from the large-scale nonprofit.
“Workers at GrowNYC wanted and needed to form their union, as do countless workers across the food supply chain from farm to point-of-sale,” Stuart Appelbaum, President of the RWDSU, tells Food Tank.
GrowNYC is an environmental organization based in New York City. The nonprofit aims to improve New Yorkers’ quality of life through food access and agriculture programs, such as fresh pantry projects and farmer assistance. The employees advocating for union recognition represent around 70 GrowNYC Greenmarkets, farm stands, community supported agriculture (CSA) pick-up locations, and school operations.
“Essential food processing, farming and food retail workers are rising up and winning their unions and strong contracts that will forever change how they’re treated at work,” says Applebaum.
Workers at GrowNYC report that sexual harassment employees face from visitors at the markets is a key motivation for the union.
“We hear the staff’s concern about customers and the public acting inappropriately. We always respond aggressively and have a zero tolerance policy,” a spokesperson for GrowNYC tells Food Tank. “We look forward to working with the union to develop ways to further support them.”
Workers have also raised concerns of unstable scheduling practices, seasonal layoffs with no call-back structure, a lack of structure when it comes to responsibilities at work, and favoritism by management. Employees hope the union contract with the RWDSU will begin to alleviate some of these issues.
“I am thrilled with GrowNYC’s decision. I am happy they are still interested in keeping a good relationship with us as workers by voluntarily recognizing our union. Regardless, we will continue to advocate for our rights which will advance GrowNYC’s mission as a whole,” says Erik Menjivar, GrowNYC Greenmarket Manager and Compost Coordinator, in a press release.
GrowNYC’s union recognition follows a series of other election filings and wins by workers with the RWDSU this month, including at Barnes & Noble and REI. According to Appelbaum, this victory also has the potential to stimulate change for other food system workers.
“Their win is an example of how employers can support workers, and we know their first union contract will set a new standard for the food sector,” says Appelbaum.
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Photo Courtesy of Postdlf, Wikimedia Commons